A fishing centre and former Dutch stronghold on the coast just 10km north of the airport, Negombo was originally a cinnamon town where the spice was grown and cultivated widely. When the spice industry declined, fishing became its mainstay. the town achieved its main growth as a trading port for the Portuguese and the Dutch, remnants of whom exist in the town’s architecture, place names, the Dutch canal which runs through the town and the remains of the Dutch Fort.
A further legacy of the Portuguese occupation of the town is its catholicism and almost the entire population are Christian, most of them Catholics. St Mary’s Church on Grand Street is one of the most ornate you’ll find anywhere on the island and its ostentation sits in stark contrast to the poverty of the people who flock to its services every Sunday.
For Buzztrips, one of Negombo’s enduring beauties is its endless golden beaches and wonderful sunsets enjoyed at a beach bar with a gin and tonic in hand; a sundown throw back to Colonial times.
Buzz Trips opinion
Most people only use Negombo as a stepping stone between the airport and their holiday destination and vice versa, but to only spend a night here is to miss out on the chance to savour some real fishing village culture. The old Dutch Fort, the crumbling and monolithic cemetery straight from Thriller and the canal tow path are great places to explore. Don’t be put off by the beach vendors and touts, they’re only trying to make a living and will accept a polite but firm “no”. On the other hand, there are some fabulous sarongs to be bartered over.
Head down to the beach early morning to watch the fishermen unloading the catch and auctioning the fish on the beach. This is no tourist-designed event, the fishermen work hard and selling the daily catch is their livlihood. You’ll vie for space with the flies and the whiff will stay with you all day but you’ll see some amazing specimens of the deep and a snapshot of ordinary Sri Lankan life.